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Are You Thinking About a Beach Wedding?

Imagine a nice, fresh, breezy, sunny beach day! Beaches are very special places…wild with amazing power, grace and beauty. A living example of the flow of life itself reflected in the ebb of tides, the stormy or pristine days, and the rolling rhythm of the waves. Beaches are also breath-taking focal points for the pivotal times in life: childhood memories, learning to swim or surf, epic teen romances, special nights under the stars…and your wonderful wedding.
Feel the salty air and warm sun on your face, and your sweetheart’s fingers laced into yours. The waves burl the soft sugary sand under your toes. Surrounded by loved ones and miles of soaring natural beauty, you are about to become heart-joined with the love of your life. This amazing location is perfect for such a momentous event.
So just how do you have a beach wedding? What do you do first? Do you need a permit? What about weather? How do you get chairs, arbors, music, minister, catering or photography? What about guests travelling? And the cost? No worries--the cost and the to-do list for a beach wedding is the same as any other type, and even less if you are eloping.

  • LEGAL MINIMUM to marry in North Carolina is just 6 things--a marriage license and 5 willing people (bride, groom, two witnesses and a minister or judge). Everything else is optional, cultural, personal choice or spiritual choice. Wedding rings, flowers, churches, long dresses and long vows are popular but not required.
  • The majority of NC beaches are public property so you may marry almost anywhere you wish
  • Weather over this geographical area of 19 beaches (New Hanover and Brunswick county beaches) is remarkably stable and predictable…its sunny 80% of the time and infrequent rain showers pass over within 5-15 minutes. Hurricanes are scant, normally short-lived, and can be predicted.
  • Permits: Wrightsville and Oak Island require one from their local government; the 17 others in this area do not.
  • Guests would travel to your hometown for a home wedding, so they can just as easily travel to the shore and double it as a personal vacation!
  • Hundreds of rental, music, minister, food service, florists, hotels and photographers are here

Easiest Way #1: A coastal wedding planner or coordinator can create any size wedding event with all the needed service people (called “vendors”) and troubleshoot any “emergencies.” Some planners offer multiple levels of service, depending on how much or little assistance you want. Easiest Way #2: Elope with your marriage license and 2 rings, hire a minister, book a beach hotel, bring 2 adult friends (or recruit smiling strangers) for witnesses, and wed barefoot in the sand, casual or dressy! Maybe hire a photographer or videographer to share your romantic and lovely moments back home later.

Do-It-Yourself: for hands-on, creative couples try these resources:

  • Wedding Magazines--contact any of the fine vendors in this publication, of course
  • Internet--search for beach weddings at the location you want (example: “beach wedding Wilmington” or “beach wedding Ocean Isle Beach”)
  • Ask your favorite vendors who they recommend for other services. They will name good ones because they will not risk associating to a careless businesses.
  • Ask trusted friends and family who have been to this area or had a beach wedding too. Here is a suggested list of what most DIY couples need for a typical, nice beach wedding. Some vendors offer many services or packages, so you might cover many steps in one contact. FYI: ceremonies are 5 – 20 minutes and the event may take about 1 hour, depending on speed of guests and not including a reception.

  • FIRST, MAKE DECISIONS: 1. Set your budget. You can get a nice, casual wedding starting about $500 and up.
    2. Estimate your total number of guests, if any. Consider guests’ needs--hotels, car parking, transportation to ceremony or reception, pet needs, dining, and the challenges of hot sun and soft sand for elderly.
    3. Consider the “politics” and social dynamics among your guests—do they distress or improve the quality of your happy beach wedding? FYI: you can video record it for those not invited.
    4. Choose 1 or 2 favorite beach locations. If you can be flexible on this, you may save money and still have a GREAT wedding.
    5. Choose 1 or 2 dates and times for the ceremony--if you can be flexible here, you may save money.
    6. Write down ALL questions from your fiancé, family and self.
    7. Decide on: traditional, creative, religious, non-religious or spiritual type of ceremony, formal or casual dress code, male or female minister
    8. Decide if you want rented chairs, arbor, and beach decorations (elderly and disabled need seats).
    9. Decide if ordering flowers, music, photography, beauty service, or bring it yourself.
    10. Decide if ordering a reception and cake. If so, choose family catering, professional catering, reserve a restaurant or a combination of these.

    1. Book a minister/officiant first because that is the only required service (fyi--judges rarely leave the courthouse for weddings). Name your preferred date, time, location and minister gender, upfront. Include which preferences are flexible for you. If you want a non-religious ceremony, say so… some ministers are fine with that, some are not. Good ones book up quickly so lock in your Officiant asap.
    2. Book your accommodations as soon as you set your date and location. These fill up very fast at the beach so do NOT delay on this step.
    3. Book photographers, videographers, musicians and caterers/restaurants. Ask questions and communicate clearly with them.
    4. Contact food services, rental businesses, beauty salons, florists and transportation next.
    5. Meanwhile, send out invitations, get your wedding clothes, rings, supplies, accessories.
    6. Within 60 days of your wedding date, go together to any NC Register of Deeds office to purchase your marriage license for $60 cash. Call that office beforehand to confirm what identification pieces they particularly require. Bring the license to the ceremony.

    For best results follow the instructions your hired vendors give you. Asking all your questions, communicating clearly and openly make a big difference. If you need help, ask. Remember why you are doing this – to have fun celebrating your Love and Connection at THE BEACH!

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